Access to online resources is transforming health and environmental research

Published: Friday 15th May 2015
Category: Blog, News


In 2007, when he first joined Makerere University in Uganda as an agricultural librarian trainee, Onan Mulumba spent most of his time re-shelving books. Now he accesses thousands of online journals, books and databases to help farmers deal with pest infestations and plant diseases.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 11.17.23“The (farmers) want an immediate solution because the new crop pests in Uganda are very destructive,” he said. “We can now search the databases to get the knowledge they need.”

The transformation to electronic resources in libraries is part of Research4Life, a UNEP-supported programme whose origins date back to 2000. Studies of research productivity in Canadian, British and American universities have found that productivity is related significantly to access to information resources. Yet 15 years ago, large portions of the world did not have access to the knowledge contained in international scientific publications.

In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) found that 56 per cent of institutions in 75 of the world’s low-income countries—those with annual per capita gross national product (GNP) of under US$1,000—had had no journal subscriptions for the previous five years; 34 per cent of institutions in countries with an annual per capita GNP of US$1,000-3,000 had had no subscriptions for five years; and another 34 per cent averaged only two subscriptions over the past five years. read more